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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

When New Line Cinema executives agreed to bankroll this massive project, to be filmed in New Zealand by a relatively unheralded director, they were risking their entire company. Sure, J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is beloved by many around the world, but plenty of folks in the know at the time called the books impossible to adapt. They said the scope of the project was overwhelming, and Jackson would inevitably fail, bankrupting the company and putting his own directorial career in jeopardy.

Three years later, New Line was back in business, and Jackson was one of the world’s most highly regarded directors. The three films picked up a total of 30 Oscar nominations, 17 of which were wins (including a Best Picture). They also made nearly $3 billion worldwide.

All three films are towering successes, both commercially and critically. Distinguishing between the three seems impossible because the project is more like a 10-plus-hour opus than three separate films. But if pressed, I would have to choose The Fellowship of the Ring as my favorite, simply because it introduced me to this magical world and made the next two Decembers the most anticipated months of my young movie-going life.

The Fellowship of the Ring starts out with a prologue detailing the history of the One Ring of Middle Earth, a creation of the dark Lord Sauron of Mordor, who wanted to control the other magical rings given to the elves, dwarves, and men of the land. Through the ages, the Ring passed from creature to creature, destroying all those who possessed it, until it reached Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), a hobbit of the Shire. After discovering the ring, Bilbo ceased to age and could disappear whenever putting it on. But the Ring was poisoning his soul, and with the threat of Mordor growing stronger, Bilbo knew it was time to move on.

He gives the ring to his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and a friendly wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), eventually discovers Frodo’s ring is the One Ring. He knows it must be destroyed, so Frodo and his friend, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), leave the Shire for an adventure that will decide the fate of the world.

There are many other colorful and interesting characters along the journey. We meet Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), two other hobbits who provide most of the film’s comic relief. The four hobbits and Gandalf are part of the fellowship of nine who pledge to make it to Mordor to destroy the Ring. The other members of the fellowship are Boromir (Sean Bean), Legolas the elf, (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), who is heir to the throne of Gondor.

The Fellowship of the Ring is astounding from top to bottom and beginning to end. Technically, it’s an exceptionally beautiful film. It cost a ton of money to make, but every dime is well-spent. Even more than that, the film draws you in emotionally. You connect with the characters. Frodo’s journey is our journey. He’s innocent and hasn’t strayed much from the Shire. We want him to succeed, for he and Sam represent all that is good. Of all the characters in the three films, these two are the most pure and most likely to emotionally resonate.

The acting is tremendous. Ian McKellen was awarded with an Oscar nomination for his work as Gandalf, the wise protector of the hobbits. He’s the leader of the journey and isn’t afraid to wield his power, even in the face of some terrifying creatures. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin make us really care for Frodo and Sam. The rest of the fellowship is quite good, including Viggo Mortensen, whose role is much expanded in the subsequent films, but whose Aragorn is one of recent cinema’s greatest characters.

For many years, this was my favorite film ever (before I had become an avid film watcher), but even now, it’s still high on my list. If you are one of the maybe ten people out there that haven’t seen this film, drop what you are doing and go watch it. But make sure you have about 10 hours to spare, you won’t want to stop with just one.

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